There are a variety of ways to perform muscle toning exercises. Each method has its benefits. While many people wonder which muscle toning technique is the best, most fitness experts will advise you to stick with the one that you enjoy.
Benefits of Muscle Toning Exercises
A toning exercise program will help you develop musculature strength and definition. If you perform weight-bearing muscle toning exercises, such as squats and lunges, you will increase bone density, which can help prevent osteoporosis. Additionally, your toning routine might help you control your weight, since toned muscles have a relatively high metabolic rate.
Fortunately, the benefits of toning exercise do not stop at bone density and weight control. A well designed program can correct muscle imbalances and improve posture. It can also make you look slimmer, without losing weight. For example, many women tend to have a smaller bone structure in their upper body and wider structure around the hips. If you perform upper body exercises, you can build some muscle around shoulders. By creating natural shoulder pads, your hips and waist will actually appear smaller.
Muscle Toning Myths
In recent years, the media has been proficient at informing people about the benefits of different types of exercise. As such, because of information featured on the news, in magazines and online, most people are pretty savvy about the latest exercise research. However, it is often surprising to hear that some of the classic old wives tales still prevail. Here are a few of them:
- Myth Number One: Toning exercises are great for spot reduction. Not exactly. Spot reduction is a myth. The only way to "lose inches" around a given area is to lose all over body fat.
- Myth Number Two: Toning exercises will build big ugly muscles. This is highly unlikely. Unless you are using extremely heavy weights, toning exercises will not build huge muscles.
- Myth Number Three: I should not do toning exercises until I am down to my ideal weight. Wrong again! Since muscle toning exercises raise your metabolic rate, they can be a helpful weapon in the weight loss battle.
The Two Phases of a Toning Exercise
There are two phases of a muscular contraction. In the concentric phase, your muscles are shortening as they contract. For example during a hamstring curl, the concentric contraction occurs when you bend your knees. In the eccentric phase, your muscles are lengthening as they contract. To use the hamstring curl example, the eccentric phase occurs when you straighten your legs.
While many people perform concentric movements with good form and control, they often throw away the eccentric phase of the exercise. You have probably heard this happening in a gym, when an exerciser slowly and carefully performs one part of the movement and then crashes the weight stack for the second half. Unfortunately, doing this means that you are only getting half of the benefits of your workouts. By paying attention to the eccentric phase of an exercise, you can develop a longer and leaner look to your muscles. This is one of the premises of Pilates exercise.
Types of Toning Exercises
If you belong to a gym, you can perform toning exercises on the fitness machines. While this type of exercise will give you the maximum amount of resistance, it has its limitations. In most cases, your movements will be limited to either flexion and extension, or abduction, moving towards center and abduction, moving away from center. To fine tone your body and define the smaller muscle groups, you will want to vary your range of motion. If your gym has a cable machine, this is quite possible. You can experiment with different body positions and even use the stability ball in conjunction with the cable attachments. You should also consider using resistance bands for your basic floor exercises. They provide added resistance, while allowing for a wide range of motion.
Make sure that you allow for 48 hours rest between toning workouts. If you have not exercised for awhile, check with your doctor before starting a toning program.